Everyone should have the opportunity to travel the world. No matter your age, if you want to visit every mountain range in the United States, you should have the freedom to follow your dreams. That’s what happened for 89-year-old Joy Ryan, who has had limited traveling experience. Knowing this, her grandson, Brad Ryan, decided to take her on a trip in 2015 to visit all 61 U.S. National Parks. It was a trip she’ll never forget.
Living The Simple Life
Joy Ryan had always lived the simple life in Duncan Falls, Ohio. In her 89 years, she never traveled much. In fact, she had never even seen a coastline, but it was her dream to see the ocean and explore mountains. When her grandson, Brad Ryan, took his first hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail, Joy shared her regrets of never traveling. Brad commented, “She told me at that time that she really, really regretted that she didn’t get to do more of that thing and have more experiences in life.”
Joy’s husband had passed away 20 years prior, so she would often sit at her home alone, according to Brad. Two of her sons passed away in their 40s. Joy worked a minimum wage job until her early 80s to make ends meet. Knowing this, Brad decided he would treat his grandmother to the trip of a lifetime.
Best Trip Ever
In 2015, Brad took Grandma Joy, as he calls her, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But he didn’t want to stop there. He started a GoFundMe page to raise money to fund a trip to visit 21 U.S. National Parks in just 28 days. On their trips, Brad knew they stood out from other tourists. He said, “I started to realize how unconventional it is for somebody in their 30s, a grandson, to be traveling around with their grandmother. We definitely stood out like sore thumbs everywhere we went.”
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Since 2015, Grandma Joy and Brad have visited all 61 U.S. National Parks, visiting Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Everglades National Park, Yosemite National Park, and so many more. They have seen grizzly bears. They have been charged by a moose. Grandma Joy’s favorite animal spotting has been the prairie dog, an animal she finds hilarious. Brad commented, “We’ve had all these dramatic experiences and seen all this wildlife that she’s never set eyes on in Ohio.”
Always So Positive
Brad realized this trip has been important to his grandmother. It’s been his way of rewarding her for always remaining positive, no matter how many hardships she faced. “She’s the kind of person that, despite the fact that she’s had a lot of hardships in her life and she hasn’t seen a lot, she would’ve maintained a positive outlook the rest of her life, even if she hadn’t left the state,” Brad said. “She says she wakes up every morning and says, ‘Thank you for another day.’”
Brad knew his grandmother’s unique positivity and endearing charm would inspire others. That’s why he decided to create a joint Instagram (@grandmajoysroadtrip) to document their adventures, including when Grandma Joy humorously rolled down a sand dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. On Instagram, they share photographs of their travels and they have gained over 11,000 followers.
The traveling duo has also gained national attention on Twitter. Their story reached over 100,000 people on CNN’s Twitter page. Twitter users commented on the story, saying how heartwarming it is to hear about the close relationship between the pair. One Twitter user, @knowerofnada, commented: “LOVE this. This is exactly what I dream about doing with my grandparents if they were still alive.” Another user, @RedDirtOK), said: “This is the trip of a lifetime! I may have just found a new #lifegoal.”
— CNN (@CNN) August 15, 2019
Grandma Joy and Brad will continue to travel the country together. He knows it’s beneficial to her. He said, “At her age, she’s very cognizant that at every month, she’s probably seeing something for the first and last time, and that has dramatically changed the way I live my life, as well.” We should all learn to be like Grandma Joy.
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